He was a native of Totma, Russia, he served in the RAC for 31 years, attaining the rank of Commerce Counselor (12th rank) and being awarded the gold medal "for zealous service" from Emperor Aleksandr I. Between 1808-1812 he led five exploratory expeditions to California with the intent of founding an agricultural settlement to supply the northern colonies of Russian America (Alaska).
Kuskov, under guidance from Baranov, founded Fortress Ross (present day Fort Ross) in 1812.:83-84
Kuskov served as Administrator at Fort Ross from 1812 until 1821. In 1819 he was recommended for the Order of St. Vladimir, 4th class, but had not received the award by the time of his death in 1823. After retiring from the RAC he returned to his home town of Totma, in the Vologda province on July 4, 1821, and died in 1823. His house is preserved to this day in Tot'ma as the "Kuskov House Museum", under the direction of the Tot'ma Regional History Museum, which preserves two original portraits, presumed to have been painted in California of Ivan Aleksandrovich and his wife.